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   Chapter 21 A SONG FROM THE TREE TOPS

The Phantom Violin / A Mystery Story for Girls By Roy J. Snell Characters: 7309

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Greta Clara Bronson was by nature a musician, an artist, a person of temperament. The dawn of another day found her in no mood for seeking adventure. The troubles of others, if indeed there were troubled ones in these hills, seemed far away.

Having made sure that her companion's sprained ankle was not a matter of serious consequence, she found herself ready for a day of rest and thought; not serious thought, but the dreamy sort that leads one's mind, like a drifting cobweb, into unknown lands.

All the long forenoon she lay upon a bed of moss in the sun. At times she dreamed of her home and mother. This seemed very far away. Would she return to it all? Surely, "'When the frost is on the pumpkin,'" she whispered. Looking up at the sun, she smiled.

For an hour she dreamed of the wreck and of the shady shores of Duncan's Bay. "Dizzy," she whispered, "I wonder where he is?" Before leaving the wreck, they had set their pet loon free. He seemed quite able to care for himself. "Probably he's gone ashore and has laughed his head off at some crazy loon that looks just like him," she chuckled.

"But Jeanne?" Greta asked herself. "Is she truly happy with those queer gypsy people? How strange it seems!"

* * * * * * * *

Yes, Jeanne was happy with "those queer people." Having, as of old, forgotten all thought of the morrow, she had in true gypsy fashion thrown herself with abandon into the joys of each new day.

At Chippewa Harbor there were a few small cabins and many tents. The visitors showered silver down upon her tambourine when her dance with the bear was over. "Frank, joyous, kindly people, these Americans," she thought. "What a glorious land!"

And yet her keenest joy came when, after climbing a ridge, she came at last upon a lake three miles long, a mile wide, where there was no one. "Dark forests, darker water, wild moose, wild birds and the deep, glorious silence of God," she whispered to the companion at her side. "How grand to pitch a tent on these shores and live many long days!"

So the Ship of Joy made its way slowly along the shores of Isle Royale, and still the dark-eyed Greta sat far up on that ridge dreaming the hours away.

After a lunch of toast, bacon and black tea, Greta declared her intention of going out to play for the birds.

Tucking her violin under her arm, she wandered away up the ridge. At the summit, somewhat to her surprise, she found a hard-beaten trail. Traveling here with ease, she wandered on and on until with a little start she found herself recognizing a certain jagged rock formation.

"Must have been here before." She stopped dead in her tracks. "I have! Last night!"

Should she turn back? Where were the green eyes?

"Green eyes do not shine in the day!" She laughed a little. "Ghosts, witches, green eyes, they all vanish at dawn."

Seating herself on a moss covered rock, she began thrumming the strings of her violin. Then she sent out some little plaintive snatches of song.

She paused to lean far forward, intent, alert, expectant. Yes, there it was. A bird had answered.

After listening with all her ears, she imitated his call. Then she listened again.

"Yes, yes, my little one!" Her heart warmed to the tiny whistler of Greenstone Ridge. "He's coming closer."

Once more she repeated his song. This time there were two replies, one near and one far away. Soon it seemed the bushes, the trees, the very air was filled with little gray and brown songsters. Thrilled by this unique experience, she forgot both time and place as she proceeded to charm her tiny auditors.

Place was brought back to her with startling force. Some

great creature came thrashing through the brush.

With a low cry, she gripped her precious violin and sprang for the nearest tree.

Just in time she was, for a bull moose charged full upon the spot where she had been. Why he charged will remain a mystery. Perhaps he did not love music. Perhaps he was just mean by nature. Enough that he was here; and here, beyond a shadow of a doubt, he meant to stay.

Having spent a full ten minutes sharpening his jagged antlers on a dead cottonwood tree, he marched up to Greta's fir tree, leaned his full weight against it, then gave forth a most terrifying roar. Finding the tree quite solid and alive, he dropped with a grunt on the bed of moss at the foot of the tree and pretended at least to fall asleep.

"Our next number," Greta said quite soberly, "will be a cradle song entitled 'When father moose goes to sleep.'"

The thing she played, perched there like a nightingale on a limb, was not that at all, but an exquisite fantasy written after some all-but-forgotten folk song of the gypsies.

Caught by the charm of it, she played it over and over.

Then, to her vast astonishment, as the notes faded away and she rested there among the branches, someone took up her song.

"A violin!" she whispered. "The phantom violin! And so close at hand!"

The effect, there in the gathering twilight, was like a touch of magic.

The silence that followed the stranger's last note was most profound, so perfect that the flutter of a small bird's wings might be heard ten yards away. Charmed by this little touch of the dramatic in life, Greta forgot that she was perched in a tree, that a monstrous moose lay at the foot of that tree, and that darkness was falling. Lips parted, ears strained, she waited for one more note from that magic violin.

It did not come. Instead she heard a pleasing voice say, "What are you doing up there?"

"Quiet!" she warned. "There is a moose."

"Oh ho! That's it!" There came a mellow laugh. "Some bluffing old moose has you treed. Watch!"

Next instant an ear-splitting shout rent the air.

Came a terrific thumping at the foot of her tree, followed by a sound of crashing of bushes that rapidly diminished in the distance.

"He's gone," the voice said. "Come down!"

A brief scramble, then she found herself looking into a smiling face. The face was framed by a tangled mass of gray hair; yet the face was young. It was the face of the picture in that little blank book Florence had found in the mine.

"Per-Percy O'Hara!" Her lips could scarcely frame the words.

"You-" the man stepped back. "How did you know me?"

"I've always known you, at-at least for a very long time. But why are you here?"

"That," he smiled, a strange smile, "that, dear child, is a long story."

"A child," said Greta, "likes to hear stories."

"Is it not enough," he laughed a low laugh, "that I have saved you from a wild and ferocious beast who, joking aside, would have slept right there all night? And must I tell you a story besides?"

"Perhaps," said the girl soberly, "you have more to gain by telling the story than I have by listening."

A frown gathered on his brow. She shuddered in fear. Yet again the ready smile returned.

"Stories," he said quietly, "must be told in just the right setting. This is not the time. Another day perhaps. Not now. I-"

He broke short off. His face took on a look of horror. "Wha-what was that?"

Up from the depths below, where darkness was falling among the black fir trees, rising like a siren, had come one long, piercing scream.

Then silence and falling darkness settled over them like a shroud.

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